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Browsing Fraud Prevention

How To Shop Safer Online  by Tara

March22

Young woman using laptop and mobile phoneShopping online has an obvious appeal: No lines, no parking lot misery, better inventory, an absence of uber-pushy salespeople and I can shop while wearing my comfy pink sweatpants. Everyone wins! However, buying anything on the internet comes with a risk – the potential of having your personal information compromised. We’re talking about your name, address, and method of payment (credit card, debit, or account number). Eeee! We don’t want you to have to deal with that!

I chatted with Linn Area Credit Union’s Fraud Specialist Liz to get her tips for a safer online shopping experience:

Before you even get started…

  • Secure your computer: Ensure that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software and firewall. This software is available at all price points, including fah-fah-FREE. Make sure to do some research to see what will work best for you. Here’s one article that can help you get started.
  • Make sure your web browser is updated: Use the latest version of your web browser and set it to the highest level. (Need help finding the latest version of your web browser? Go here if you use Internet Explorer. The browser Firefox updates happen automatically, but you can read more here on how to look for updates manually.)
  • Isolate the spending: Get a credit card just for using online so you can monitor transactions easily. This credit card should not be associated with your debit card. Check out our rock star credit cards here, including one that you where you earn Reward points!  (Liz’s tip: If it comes out of your checking account, it could mess up your account balance if the store places a hold on a larger amount than the total of your purchase or if you happen to get charged multiple times.)
  • Keep Paypal your pal: Set up a Paypal account (click here) and use it whenever possible while shopping online. Be sure to check the accounts that Paypal debits from frequently to quickly detect fraud.
  • Be strict about passwords: Use a different password for each site on which you have an account; do not allow your browser to store passwords for you. We recommend that you use a combination of letters and numbers. (Liz’s tip: It’s always a good idea to change up your passwords on a regular basis!)

Now that you’re ready to shop…

  • Go straight to the site: Type a store’s Web address directly into your web browser instead of using a search engine to retrieve it. Cybercriminals plant malicious links that look like popular sites within the first few pages of search results. (Liz’s tip: This also counts for coupons that are emailed to you. Don’t use the links within the email. Ever.)
  • Do your research: If you’re buying from an unknown retailer, be sure to check reviews, their address and verify the landline number you can contact them on. (Liz’s tip: A quick Google search for reviews on an unknown retailer can save you A LOT of hassle later.)
  • Look for the “signs of security”: On sites where you’re making a financial transaction, look for “https” in the address bar and a padlock icon in the web browser Status Bar. On sites where the retailer uses extended SSL validation, look for the address bar to turn green on secured pages.

Before you purchase your items…

  • Know the return policy like the back of your hand: Make sure you know the store’s policies and procedures. How long do you have to return the product if you’re not happy with it? 14 days? 30 days? Keep in mind that if you are purchasing around a holiday, shipping might be slower, so if the store has a 14 day return policy, it’s possible you may not receive the product before the 14 day return window expires. (Liz’s tip: I find that online retailers who also have brick and mortar stores tend to be the easiest to work with on returns.)
  • Keep your eye on that receipt: Once you buy your item, you’ll want to print out the receipt. This gives you a sales confirmation, which is the best way to protect yourself in case the vendor tries to charge more or something goes wrong with delivery.

Aren’t we done yet? Nope, while you wait for your goodies to arrive…

  • Watch for seasonal scams: Be wary of spam emails claiming to be shipping confirmation or undeliverable package alerts that require you to open an attachment. Delete any message that claims to contain tracking information, but which lacks a tracking number in either the subject or body of the message. The safest way to track a package is through the shipper’s website or the online store where you made the purchase.
  • Brand name scams: Does that typically pricey item look untypically cheap? Beware. How does the saying go? Ahhh, yes – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. We have seen a common theme of people typing an item into a search engine and finding the item for a jaw-droppingly low price. Be wary and use your research to ensure that there are no surprises when that box arrives… or doesn’t arrive at all. (Liz’s two cents: I’ve seen fake tablets, fake Uggs, and knock offs of almost every clothing brand you can think of. Be careful!)

A big thanks to Liz for all of her helpful tips! Goodbye, trip to the store! Helloooo, sweatpants!

So tell us in the comments below – how much of your shopping do you do online???

Dude, where’s my phone?  by Ellen

October14

Losing your mobile phone is more than a pain in the patootie, it can be almost paralyzing. (Who memorizes phone numbers anymore, for Pete’s sake?!) Think of everything you have on there: contacts, pictures, calendar/reminders, saved logins, your current level of Angry Birds… and possibly access to your bank account information. 

This infographic is awesome. It talks about common yet lousy places to leave/forget/lose your phone and offers come great preventative measures for you to put in place now should it ever happen to you. 

Mobile banking is incredibly convenient and we’d love all of our members to check it out because it puts all of your account information at your fingertips and you can do transactions anywhere. (Seriously, it’s free and quite fabulous.) What’s more, it’s very secure and you have to enter your password each time you log in. Even if your phone falls into evil hands, they can’t get into your account information. 

Maybe this would be a good time to look into backing up the information on your phone or updating your old-fashioned address book. What would you do if your phone fell in the bathtub tomorrow?

Top Things You Should NEVER Carry in Your Wallet  by Tara

August26

I’m not a morning person. I don’t drink coffee (they actually asked me to stop during my first job out of college!) and caffeine in general tends to make me a little buzzalicious. One thing I do like to add to my mornings to make them a tad more bearable is Good Morning America.

They have a segment on personal finance in which they usually chat with Mellody Hobson, president of Ariel Investments. One story in particular stood out to me and I just had to share it with you guys! Mellody set up a booth in NYC and started asking people if she could go through their purses and wallets to see if there was anything in there that could open them up to identity theft (go here to check out the clip).

Of course, lots of New Yorkers were reluctant (“Fahgettaboutit!”), but others were curious and ready to take advantage of her knowledge. I, too, was listening with ears perked. In 2008, I had the misfortunate of having my purse and laptop stolen. (Trust me, people, you do not want to deal with the amount of paperwork and heartburn that goes along with that level of fraud!) I needed to be sure that I had corrected the error of my ways and that my wallet was now relatively fraud protected.

Mellody has some top items that you should NEVER keep in your wallet, and I’ll share them with you in just a moment. (For the full story and some additional tips, go here.)

1)      The number one thing that you should never, EVER, under any circumstances keep in your wallet is… *drum roll please!* Your Social Security card!!! Who knew one tiny piece of paper could be so vital to your life? I found this out the hard way, friends. Please go check your purse or wallet right now and make sure your SS card is NOT there!

2)      Mellody will tell you to not keep more than one credit card, but we suggest that you keep two so one can be a back up if there is a problem with the first. With only two cards in your wallet, not only is it easier to keep track of spending, but if your belongings should happen to get stolen, you’ll only have to contact two card companies. (Go here to check out our awesome, low rate credit cards!)

3)      Receipts galore. They may contain personal info, so it’s best to not harbor them in your wallet. (This is something my husband is VERY guilty of!) Mellody suggests removing them from your wallet each night.

4)      Ditch anything that is expired. Lots of these expired things can tie back to your full name and address – you know, privileged information that you don’t want a crook to get their grubby little hands on!

Did you find any of the above surprising? Feel free to fess up in the comments below!

FREE Shred Event!  by Tara

April7

This may or may not come as a surprise to you, but this happens to be Money Smart Week across the nation. It’s a time where the community collaborates with local financially minded businesses to, well, teach some money smarts. 

As part of Money Smart Week, Document Destruction & Recycling will be hosting a Free Document Shredding event THIS SATURDAY (April 9th) from 9 a.m. – noon at their building, located at 4250 6th St. SW right here in Cedar Rapids! 

Folks, this FREE community event is the perfect time to get rid of all those credit card applications that have been mailed to you, old checks, financial records you haven’t looked at in over 10 years, pay stubs from years ago, and any other sensitive information you wouldn’t want to risk having someone find in the garbage. You can bring up to five bags or boxes and Document Destruction & Recycling will happily make sure they are safely destroyed.

We can’t emphasize enough the importance of properly discarding confidential documents and safeguarding your personal information! Please take advantage of this FREE community event this Saturday. 

Don’t forget to share the love by sending this blog post onto your friends and family!

Tips to stay safe while holiday shopping online!  by Tara

December7

With only 18 shopping days until Christmas, if you’re anything like me, you’re in full blown gift buying mode. I even dragged my husband to Coralville Mall last Saturday, much to his dismay. What’s worse than dragging your husband to a crazy-busy mall on a Saturday before the biggest shopping holiday of the year? Leaving empty handed. 

“Ehh, they were out of her size. I’ll just buy it online.” “I’m not sure if he already has this book. Once his mom calls me back, I’ll just order it online.” “That line is too long. I’ll just go online to get that gift card.”

Well, it looks like my Christmas shopping took a turn for the information super highway. 

According to the folks at comScore, I’m not alone. They say that over $13.55 billion has been spent online in the US during the 2010 holiday season to date  and that the number of online buyers grew by 4% from last year. Shopping online has an obvious appeal: No lines, no parking lot misery, better inventory, an absence of uber-pushy salespeople and I can shop while wearing my comfy pink sweatpants. Everyone wins! However, buying anything on the internet comes with a risk – the potential of identity theft. 

I chatted with Linn Area Credit Union’s Fraud Specialist Liz to get her tips for a safer online shopping experience:

 Before you even get started… 

  • Secure your computer: Ensure that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software and firewall. Use the latest version of your web browser and set it to the highest level. (Need help finding the latest version of your web browser? Email us here and we’d be happy to help.) 
  • Isolate the spending: Get a credit card just for using online so you can monitor transactions easily. This credit card should not be associated with your debit card. Check out our rock star credit cards here.  (Liz’s tip: If it comes out of your checking account, it could mess up your account balance if the store places a hold on a larger amount than the total of your purchase or if you happen to get charged multiple times.) 
  • Keep Paypal your pal: Set up a Paypal account (click here) and use it whenever possible while shopping online. Be sure to check the accounts that Paypal debits from frequently to quickly detect fraud. 
  • Be strict about passwords: Use a different password for each site on which you have an account; do not allow your browser to store passwords for you. We recommend that you use a combination of letters and numbers. (Liz’s tip: It’s always a good idea to change up your passwords on a regular basis!) 

Now that you’re ready to shop…

  • Go straight to the site: Type a store’s Web address directly into your web browser instead of using a search engine to retrieve it. Cybercriminals plant malicious links that look like popular sites within the first few pages of search results. (Liz’s tip: This also counts for coupons that are emailed to you. Don’t use the links within the email. Ever.) 
  • Do your research: If you’re buying from an unknown retailer, be sure to check reviews, their address and verify the landline number you can contact them on. (Liz’s tip: A quick Google search for reviews on an unknown retailer can save you A LOT of hassle later.) 
  • Look for the “signs of security”: On sites where you’re making a financial transaction, look for “https” in the address bar and a padlock icon in the web browser Status Bar. On sites where the retailer uses extended SSL validation, look for the address bar to turn green on secured pages. 

Before you purchase your items…

  • Know the return policy like the back of your hand: Make sure you know the store’s policies and procedures. How long do you have to return the product if you’re not happy with it? 14 days? 30 days? Keep in mind that with slow holiday shipping, if the store has a 14 day return policy, it’s possible you may not receive the product before the 14 day return window expires. (Liz’s tip: I find that online retailers who also have brick and mortar stores tend to be the easiest to work with on returns.) 
  • Keep your eye on that receipt: Once you buy your item, you’ll want to print out the receipt. This gives you a sales confirmation, which is the best way to protect yourself in case the vendor tries to charge more or something goes wrong with delivery. 

Aren’t we done yet? Nope, while you wait for your goodies to arrive… 

  • Watch for seasonal scams: Be wary of spam emails claiming to be shipping confirmation or undeliverable package alerts that require you to open an attachment. Delete any message that claims to contain tracking information, but which lacks a tracking number in either the subject or body of the message. The safest way to track a package is through the shipper’s Web site or the online store where you made the purchase.

A big thanks to Liz for all of her helpful tips! I think I’m ready to tackle the rest of my shopping! Goodbye, long lines! Helloooo, sweatpants!

So tell us in the comments below – are you doing most of your shopping in the stores or online this year???